Eastview girls reach state basketball tournament
Eastview girls on 18-1 run going into state
by Mike Shaughnessy
For the first time in a long time, people were using the “R”word around the Eastview girls basketball program. That is, “R,” as in, “rebuilding.”
That didn’t come from within the Lightning’s team, but from the outside.
“We had a lot of students saying, ‘Oh, you lost a lot of your best players (from last season), so you must be rebuilding for next year,’”senior guard Paige Palkovich said.
But as the season progressed, it became clear the Lightning didn’t have to adopt “Wait ’til Next Year” as its slogan.
Eastview was 6-4 on Jan. 1. The Lightning then won 18 of its next 19 games, taking it through a 52-47 victory over Park of Cottage Grove in the Class 4A, Section 3 championship game March 8 at Hamline University.
“As a team, we’re pretty solid,” senior forward Amber Mehr said. “Maddy (ninth-grader Madison Guebert) is a great point guard. We’ve had a lot of players contributing this season, so we have good balance. And we know when we’re on defense, we have to play tough.”
Eastview (24-5) will try to maintain that formula through the state Class 4A tournament at noon Wednesday against St. Michael-Albertville at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
Eastview had to survive a furious rally by Park to qualify for the state tournament for the first time in three years.
Eastview scored the first 13 points of the game and held a 37-23 lead with less than 12 minutes remaining. Park then went on a 22-4 run over the next six minutes that turned a 14-point deficit into a 45-41 lead.
The Lightning regained control and held the Wolfpack to two points the rest of the game.
“The nice thing about these kids is they are composed,” coach Melissa Guebert said. “We didn’t think this was going to be easy. We’ve been in enough tough games to know that. Teams can come back quickly, especially with the three-point shot.”
Melissa Guebert’s steal and basket with 2:31 remaining put Eastview back in front, 48-47.
Meghan Ryan made a key steal with Eastview still holding its one-point lead. Park was forced to foul Mehr, who made two free throws to make it 50-47.
Park launched three three-point attempts in the final 22 seconds, although none came particularly close to going through. Ryan made two more free throws with one second remaining to seal the Lightning’s victory.
“That was hard,” Palkovich said. “But I thought we did areally good job of playing as a team. We kept our poise, we stayed calm with the ball and
we hit some big shots.”
Madison Guebert, the Lightning’s leading scorer, had 20 points in the section final. Ryan added 14 points and Mehr scored 11.
Melissa Guebert, the Lightning’s first-year head coach, said the players became better at understanding and executing their roles during the streak of 18 victories in 19 games.
She also got a glimpse of her team’s resolve in December when, three days after a 42-point loss to No. 1-ranked Hopkins, the Lightning came within
a missed three-pointer at the buzzer of taking then-fifth-ranked Bloomington Kennedy to overtime.
“I think that’s when we realized we were good players, too,” Mehr said.
And the talk of this being a rebuilding year for the Lightning soon died down.